Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Tomorrow.io Orders Demo Satellites for Rain Tracking Constellation

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Tommorow.io does not have manufacturing or launch contracts in place for the rest of the planned low Earth orbit constellation of around 30 satellites, which it plans to begin deploying in late 2023 and complete in 2024, Ravichandran told SpaceNews in an interview. The venture is also still working through regulatory application processes at the Federal Communications Commission, although it plans to draw from a pool of previously allocated spectrum for its operations.

Using a radar payload that Tomorrow.io is developing at its Boston headquarters, he said the full constellation aims to provide worldwide 3D precipitation maps that refresh every hour. He said more frequent precipitation measurements in areas that ground-based radars do not reach will improve global information about hurricanes, floods and other extreme weather events.

However, Ravichandran said much of the world is out of range of these ground-based networks, because they can only be deployed on land and tend to be limited to developed countries. Tomorrow.io, which changed its name from ClimaCell after raising $77 million in March, partnered with remote sensing specialists Muon Space to devise the architecture for its operational constellation.

For more frequent precipitation updates, forecasters rely on terrestrial radars to inform their weather models.  A NASA official confirmed similar data provided from the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar on its Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite refreshes every two to three days, although the interval is not uniform at any one spot and becomes more frequent at higher latitudes. 

“There’s a tremendous amount of work to get these initial two satellites built,” he said.  Astro Digital also offers mission formulation services, but Ravichandran said Tomorrow.io decided to delegate this to another party because of the workload’s scale.

GPM offers a number of instruments beyond its Ka-band precipitation radar (KaPR), and Tomorrow.io vice president of space John Springmann said its satellites will not feature the same breadth of data collection, and “we do not have the same research-grade attributes.” “So we’re focused with Astro Digital on that. Then, in a kind of parallel effort, Muon is supporting the more forward-looking trade studies that we’re working through.” Tomorrow.io currently uses data from NASA’s GPM mission and other sources to provide forward-looking analysis for companies heavily affected by weather patterns, including airlines and taxi services, through its modeling software.

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